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Shining example of self-reliance: Elderly Kerala couple turns jewellery makers

Leela M I and P R Gopalan of Pala in Kerala

Despite facing the worst of times in their life, this elderly couple of Kerala is not ready to give up their will to live a financially independent life. For the last ten years, the couple from Pala in Kottayam have been embarking on a remarkable journey of self-reliance by crafting exquisite jewellery using beads and selling them at public events to earn a livelihood.

Instead of relying on their only son who is settled in Canada along with his family, P R Gopalan, 70 and his wife Leela M I, 65, of Kochuparambil House, Panthrandam Mile, Pala, are making an income harnessing a skill which they acquired by attending a government-sponsored skill development program.

The couple used to eke out a living by making mats and baskets from palm leaf fibres for over 25 years. But as the demand for products from palm leaves declined, the couple was forced to look out for another livelihood option.

“We learned to make jewellery after we joined a skill development programme about ten years back. At that time, we received a daily stipend of Rs 250 and a grant of Rs 30,000 from the government for purchasing materials for making the jewellery. After we started making the jewellery, we got the opportunity to display our products at several trade fairs. We got tremendous support from people,” Gopalan told “Open Digest”.

He said their products were well-received at all the fairs and events. “We are extremely happy that we got a lot of opportunities from Kudumbashree to attend several events and functions where we could display our products and sell them,” Gopalan said.

The couple’s extraordinary journey began when they realised that their new skill in making jewelleries could transform their lives. Through meticulous craftsmanship and an eye for detail, the couple started to design and make intricate ornaments, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches. Soon, words spread about their unique designs and the couple started to attract a wider clientele. “We don’t want to lean on our son for financial  support. We have taken charge of our own livelihood,” said Leela.

Pala Municipality recently awarded Leela with the best entrepreneur award. “Age should not limit one’s aspirations. We derive a lot of joy and satisfaction from creating beautiful pieces of jewellery. The new skill has instilled a sense of purpose in our life,” they added.

The couple’s life is an inspiration to other senior citizens proving that with determination, resilience and learning new skills, one can lead an independent and fulfilling life regardless of their age. They are shining examples of what it means to embrace life’s opportunities and carve out one’s own path regardless of the circumstances.

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